On being a space invader and the thing around my neck

  • Naasiha Abrahams KU Leuven


This article presents itself as an autoethnographic reflection on my positionality as a veiled, South African Muslim of Cape Malay descent and lower middle class background, attempting to navigate access to white educational space, as part of my doctoral research in Flemish primary schools. I explore what it means to be racialized as ‘other’ whilst also assuming a position of ‘authority’ as researcher, and occupying a particular space (positioned as neutral and secular) as a ‘body out of place’ (Puwar, 2004), in which a symmetry can be seen between myself and those categorised as ‘other’. The aim of this article is to reflect on how this occurs through certain processes, namely: (in)visibilisation; reprimanding; compartmentalisation; and, interpellation. I also reflect on the body of the anthropologist and the idea of the ‘objective researcher’ in order to illuminate how the mechanisms of racialization work. I engage the ensuing psychological burden brought about by the encounter with the ‘white gaze’ (Fanon, 2008). As a complement to the autoethnography, I make use of literary fiction as a method of analysis, in order to highlight the way in which literature can stimulate the formation of analytical insights (see Craith & Kockel, 2014) and, I draw on film.